“Forget the Alamo” splits neatly in half. The first half recounts the events leading up to and through the fiasco at the Alamo, and often reads like a story of a boy’s actions and adventures, although the factual version of the story lacks heroes. For example, Jim Bowie, the knife-wielding pioneer of legend, is revealed to be a slave trader, a thug and a murderer; William Barrett “Buck” Travis is a racist syphilis who writes in his diary that he has bedridden 56 women; The coonskin-capped Davy Crockett has emerged as a former US congressman and self-promoter who thrives on his own big ego. His defense of the fort isn’t just silly, it’s oddly suicidal. “They can no longer be the Holy Trinity of Texas, nor can the Alamo be the Shrine of Texas Liberty,” the author declares with full justification, drawing his Travis-like line in the sand.
The second part of the book is a more controversial examination of the Alamo’s methods of exploiting the myth, weaponizing it as propaganda, as Sam Houston did when he made his soldiers cry to remember the Alamo, or in defense. called the myth white supremacy, as was the case with “texas history movies,” which was actually a popular racist comic strip that ran in The Dallas Morning News in the late 1920s; it was later published in book form and distributed free to all seventh graders in Texas for decades. It wasn’t until the 1980s that shockingly serious academic study of this poignant subject took place.
Predictably, Hollywood played a villainous role in spreading the false narrative of Old Fort, particularly through John Wayne, who used the subject to indulge in his own ultra-male version of nationalism. In 1960, Wayne produced, directed, and starred in the nearly three-hour, $12 million epic, aptly called, “The Alamo” In which he played the role of Davy Crockett. The result was, in Texas parlance, the horse cooked – and a bomb at the box office. The book ends with an amusing account of the state’s ridiculous attempt to build a $450 million museum for the collection of Alamo antiquities compiled by British pop star Phil Collins that once used to load “Old Betsy” by Crockett. One gunpowder is included. Bowie Knife, reportedly bought for $1.5 million. The authors make a convincing case that the most important items are suspicious, if not fraudulent, origins.
In “A Single Star and Bloody Knuckles” bill minutaglio, a Texas journalist with a bag of books to his name, takes a decade-by-decade look at Texas politics, with particular emphasis on the events of the Statehouse and its unpredictable governor’s succession, but the other key players in the story. Retreats to include the likes of Sam Rayburn and Barbara Jordan. He begins with General Order Number 3, declaring liberation at Galveston at the end of the Civil War, and moves to the present. Doing this arduous research work smoothly, he prevents sweat stains from appearing and writes in prose as calm as a trout stream.
Texas, from its early days, championed a form of swashbuckling free enterprise that minimized the government’s regulatory touch. Even today, the legislature convenes for a maximum of 140 days every other year. Trade oversight and federal intervention have been a nuisance from the start. In the years immediately following the Civil War, plantation owners turned to sharecropping and a custodian system that turned freed slaves into poor indentured servants with the ability to vote. Further crimes against humanity later emerged in the form of brutal criminal-leasing systems that were used to build roads and railroads across the vast interior of the state. And then the big oil rumbles in the story: “A maze of miles of pipes, a metal ooze of roaring tanks, flares, hoses, storage tanks, and train tracks, growing on shallow bays and swamps a few decades ago. Mostly. devoid of human presence, except for crab collectors and oyster men, who push their flat-bottomed boats behind great blue herons.”